The Green Park Estates residents who are concerned about rabbits raise a significant issue (Peninsula News Review, 23 No., 2012).
Yes, rabbits can be cute, but they are also capable of devastating damage. Rabbit warrens can be both dangerous and unsightly. They have the potential to significantly disrupt the normal ecology of areas that they invade.
More than a decade ago, I consulted with the Victoria General Hospital about the rabbit problem on their grounds. As a biologist with expertise in dealing with problem wildlife, I raised the concern then there was a potential rabbit populations could expand and become even more damaging.
Two species of rabbits have established themselves on the Saanich Peninsula: the European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) and the eastern cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus). The latter is more widespread; both are capable of causing great damage. It is the European rabbit that has been so damaging in Australia. No rabbits or hares are native to Vancouver Island.
Both European rabbits and eastern cottontails are Schedule C wildlife under B.C.’s Wildlife Act. This means they can be trapped or killed anywhere and at anytime. A hunting licence is not required.
Eastern cottontails are now too well established to be eradicated, but the same is not yet true of European rabbits.
I would encourage people with European rabbits in their neighbourhood to make a concerted effort to eradicate the species before it is too late.
Mark A. Fraker